Archive for month: September 2017

Equifax Data Breach: What You Need to Know

Equifax Data Breach: What You Need to Know

By now you’ve probably heard about the data breach Equifax encountered, but how much do you know about it, and what might you need to do to protect yourself? Equifax, an often-referenced credit reporting agency, recently announced that approximately 143 million people may have been affected by the hacking of data held by Equifax. Some of the data that could have been accessed includes Social Security numbers and addresses. The number of people affected is so high that it has been strongly encouraged to keep track of this story as it progresses, particularly if you have a credit report.

News of the breach has spread across the US, prompting many questions and plenty of confusion. A great deal of confusion and misinformation began as Equifax began working to rectify the situation. After offering credit protection to help with the breach, some of Equifax’s policies were found either confusing or inadequate, upsetting people who were worried about their potentially stolen data. And Equifax’s website initially may have provided the wrong results when worried people tried to check whether they may have been affected. Equifax has since worked to improve the process, and they have even announced changes to their policies after backlash. Here’s what you need to know to make sure you’re protected:

Equifax Offers TrustedID Premier to Help Protect Users

Equifax’s website allows you to check whether you may have had your data compromised. After visiting their website here, you are given the opportunity to enroll in TrustedID Premier for a free year of protection. TrustedID Premier monitors your credit and your Social Security number, offers identity theft insurance, and more. You will need to enter some of your information, like your Social Security number, to start the process. When enrolling in TrustedID Premier, you will not need to enter your credit card information, because you will not automatically be charged for another year after your free year has ended.

You Can (and Should) Track Your Information

Aside from enrolling in Equifax’s program, you should always keep up with your financial information. One way to do so is to sign up for a website like Credit Karma, a free service that keeps up-to-date information on your credit score and credit activity. If you regularly check your information, you will be able to act more quickly when you see any strange information in your credit activity. It is almost important to keep a close eye on your bank account for any charges you don’t recognize.

People Are Already Suing

There are already reports of class-action lawsuits against Equifax due to the breach. There are already at least 23 lawsuits in the works, and it seems likely that number will grow. If you were affected by the breach, you may consider taking action yourself.

 

Though the full ramifications of this breach may not be clear quite yet, it certainly is a concerning situation. The information above should help you keep a close eye on your information as we wait for the story to develop.

Face Filters Are Everywhere

Face Filters Are Everywhere

These days more and more platforms are giving its users fun effects for their photos. At this point, three particularly popular social media apps allow us to overlay our faces with silly filters, maybe letting us turn ourselves into cats or football players or doe-eyed woodland creatures. Snapchat is the obvious app of the three, but Instagram and Facebook are in the face filter arena, as well. Each app has its own special face filters, so let’s look at what these three apps have to offer.

Snapchat

Snapchat, the popular photo-based app, is likely the first app you think of when you see a picture of someone with dog ears or a brightly glowing flower crown. Snapchat centers on being able to send your pictures to your friends, add them to a group message, save them to your photo story, and more, all without any real permanence. Photos on Snapchat, unless you remember to save them to your private memories, only last for a brief amount of time before they are gone forever. Here’s what you need to know about their face filters:

  • Snapchat adds and removes face filters regularly
  • Filters are often chosen based on current events and seasons
  • Some face filters can be placed on multiple people within a photo
  • Some filters have sound or music
  • Filters often include full-body animations that place your face in the appropriate location, usually incorporating music
  • Snapchat filters can be recorded as video, and they often have voice changers attached
  • Like other photos you take on Snapchat, you can save them to your Memories and you device

Instagram

Instagram is best known for letting users apply toned and/or textured filters to photos that have already been captured. But earlier this year, Instagram added special features to its in-app camera, allowing us to take pics with silly or cute face filters. Here’s what you can expect from Instagram’ face filters:

  • Instagram adds new face filters often, though not as often as Snapchat
  • Many of Instagram’s face filters are styled like doodles
  • Some filters can be placed on multiple people within a photo
  • Instagram’s face filters can be used while also using their other features, like Boomerang (a looping video) and Rewind (a video played in reverse)
  • After adding a face filtered photo (or any other photo) to your story, you can add linkable hashtags on top

Facebook

Facebook joined in on the face filter fun, as well. After I found out Facebook added face filters, I realized Facebook might just take over my life, considering they seem to be integrating a little bit of everything into their app. Facebook’s in-app camera has several special features, but personally, I find their face filters to be the best reason to open their camera and snap a photo. Here’s what to look for when you’re checking out Facebook’s face filters:

  • Facebook already has a large number of face filters available
  • Many (though not all) of Facebook’s face filters are bulkier than Instagram or Snapchat filters, covering much of the face instead of adding small details
  • Facebook features several pop culture filters (like the current Game of Thrones and Justice League filters)
  • Some of Facebook’s face filters include sound
  • Some filters include a voice changer
  • Video can be recorded while using Facebook’s face filters

The Verdict

All three apps are pretty similar. They all allow video recording while using face filters, they all have quite a few face filter options, they all offer some sounds, and even some of their filters look alike. But each app has its own feel and special features. Snapchat offers new filters so regularly that it would be difficult to become bored with their offerings. Instagram has options like Boomerang available. And Facebook has cool branded filters (one of which can make you look like a white walker). Try them all out and see what you think—then you might decide which you like best, or you might do what I’ve done and just use all three.

9 Alexa Skills You Should Enable

9 Alexa Skills You Should Enable

If you have an Echo, Echo Dot, Kindle, Echo Show, or any other Alexa-capable device, you probably already know that there are a lot of different ways you can take advantage of Alexa’s capabilities. With products like the Echo Dot making Alexa more and more easily available, and with the recent rumors about the upcoming Fire TV devices, it’s a good time to look into some of the fun, interesting, and downright useful skills that can be enabled on your Alexa devices. Alexa can answer some basic questions and say (or sing) a lot of funny things, but these skills will make you even more happy to have Alexa as your friend.

Bird Song

Bird Song lets you ask to hear certain birds, ask for a random bird, and ask to play a game to identify bird songs. Bird Song currently has 4.7 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Curiosity

Curiosity offers interesting pieces of information on many different subjects. Asking Alexa to “open Curiosity” prompts the skill to offer two random categories you can choose from. After you answer, Curiosity will tell you something interesting about that subject. Curiosity currently has 4 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Ingredient Sub

Ingredient Sub helps people in the kitchen by providing helpful tips for ingredient replacements. If you get halfway through a recipe and suddenly realize you’re out of eggs, you can ask Ingredient Sub, “What can I substitute for eggs?” Ingredient Sub will list options you can choose from. Ingredient Sub currently has 3.7 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Jeopardy!

Jeopardy! is just what one might expect, and it’s a lot of fun. Every weekday, the Jeopardy! skill provides an extra clue from each of the day’s different categories. The skill is complete with the sounds you know from watching the show. The skill lets you know how you did that day, and it also tells you how you’ve fared over the week. Jeopardy! currently has 3.4 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Meditation Timer

Meditation Timer offers three different soothing sounds that are helpful for meditation. After you open the skill, you can tell Meditation Timer how long you would like to meditate. A gong will sound, and one of the three sounds will begin to play. If you want to switch to a different sound, you can say, “Play next.” The three available sounds are forest, rain, and surf. Meditation Timer currently has 4.1 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

NASA Mars

NASA Mars gives you a chance to find out what’s going on with Mars and listen to rover updates. You can ask general questions about Mars, and you can ask what the rover is currently up to. NASA Mars currently has 4.4 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Radio Mystery Theater

Radio Mystery Theater is one of many skills created by Appbly.com. This particular skill lets you listen to CBS Radio Mystery Theater dramas from back in the day. There are many episodes to choose from, so you’ll have plenty of entertainment. (You might also check out other similar skills like Radio Dimension X and Radio Suspense.) Radio Mystery Theater currently has 4.2 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Weather Sky

Weather Sky is a great way to get more out of your weather reports. Weather Sky can give you a very detailed report for your current location or any other location in the US. You can also ask for past and future weather information, and a fun little addition is the ability to “change the weather” by asking for weather like rain or wind (unfortunately, it does not yet have the capability to actually change the weather, just play some sounds, but I can only assume the technology will get there someday). Weather Sky currently has 3.8 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Yes Sire

Yes Sire is an intriguing and fun adventure game you can play just by enabling the skill. You play as a medieval lord who is given a series of questions that determine your success throughout the game. You have to think carefully about your choices when presented with different scenarios. If you are careful in your strategy, you will do well, but if you aren’t paying close enough attention, you won’t last long in the game. Yes Sire currently has 4.9 out of 5 stars in the Alexa App.

…and much more

There are also plenty of specific skills run by different companies that let you do things like check your credit card balance (skills like Amex and Capital One, among others), call a ride (Lyft and Uber), and order food (like Domino’s or Starbucks Reorder). You can also often find your own local news station available to add to your news briefing. Whatever your interests, there’s a growing number of skills available.

Internet 101: The Internet of Things

Internet 101: The Internet of Things

By now you may have heard someone talking about the Internet of Things (or IoT). This term has been popping up more and more in recent years, becoming part of many peoples’ everyday vocabulary. But for many people, the name has appeared so suddenly that it’s caused some puzzled looks. What is the IoT, and how can you start taking part in the phenomena…or are you already?

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things refers to the smart products that connect to the internet or to each other. You bring the Internet of Things into your home when you buy certain smart products. For instance, your version of the IoT might come from your smart fridge and your Amazon Echo. These smart products use the internet to complete their services. Because of the internet connectivity, smart products that are part of the Internet of Things are able to offer more highly technological solutions to older, less advanced household items.

What are the privacy concerns?

There is an ongoing and lively debate about the Internet of Things, and it mostly centers on privacy. Many people feel perfectly safe using smart products that connect to the internet, stating that the manufacturers can’t use these products to gather or use their data in unwanted ways. Others argue that, terms or service or not, the internet of things can be used to compile data on individuals and be used in negative ways. Some also worry about government reach and whether their data or recordings could be compiled by government agencies. There are some cases of the government attempting to seize data in instances of criminal cases, like when Amazon was pressured to turn over recordings captured by a murder suspect’s Echo device. (After Amazon held out, the suspect eventually allowed Amazon to turn over the data.) But opinions still differ on how big of a concern privacy is with internet-connected devices. How private and protected your data will be is difficult to fully know, though the Terms of Service (TOS) for each device you connect might give you a better idea of what to expect. Whatever you decide, just be sure to read the TOS carefully for each product, making sure your data won’t be passed on or stored by anyone who could misuse it.

What are the pros and cons?

Privacy isn’t the only discussion to be had about the Internet of Things. Here are some other things to consider when deciding whether to jump on board with the IoT:

Pros

  • You have access to new and exciting tech
    Smart devices are everywhere, and there are new and interesting items being added to the Internet of Things on a regular basis. So many different products are becoming part of the IoT that it’s often hard to even keep track of what’s available.
  • You’re given the ability to perform tasks more quickly
    After setting up a device, having internet-connected devices often makes it easier to complete tasks. You can shut off an appliance that’s in the other room while you’re running out the door, for instance, instead of taking the time to go back and flip a switch.
  • You can use hands-free abilities
    Many devices are voice-controlled, like certain remotes and Amazon products, meaning you can often get something done just by using your voice. If you’re a multi-tasker (who isn’t these days?), you could be checking an email with one hand, pouring your coffee with the other, and adding an event to your calendar just with your voice.
  • It’s possible to create a hub for numerous items
    With the Internet of Things, more and more of your home products can be connected with each other, and in some cases, they can even be accessed through the same app. One way you might do this is by having several different light bulbs all able to be controlled in the same app, which makes it possible to turn all your lights off or on at the same time.
  • There’s a growing base of apps and abilities
    Some devices, like the Amazon Echo, include different skills that can be enabled, and these skills are consistently being improved and added to. Other smart products are regularly updated to work more smoothly and add more convenient features. Knowing that people get tired of the same old same old, most companies are working to make their products better and more convenient.

Cons

  • You become dependent on an internet connection
    Devices that are part of the Internet of Things rely on, well, the internet, so capabilities are reduced (or even entirely shut down) during internet outages. It’s already frustrating enough when you’re not able to watch Netflix on your computer during internet down time, so losing the ability to talk to your Echo is like salt in the wound. (Speaking of internet reliability, don’t forget about Easy Internet Now’s reliable, no-contract service!)
  • The price can be a problem
    Some smart devices can be expensive during initial release, which means you may have to wait until prices drop. For instance, some smart appliances can cost over a thousand dollars, when its internet-less counterpart might be only a couple hundred dollars. There are exceptions to this, of course, but price is still a major consideration.
  • The lifespan may not be desirable
    Some smart products may become obsolete more quickly than older products, as the technology continues growing. Like smartphones, devices that are part of the Internet of Things are getting better and better, and some companies will obviously choose to release brand new products that make their former versions less usable over time. Typically (though not always), older devices are updated less often, making the newer (and often more expensive) products more enjoyable to use.
  • Smart products are still in development
    Some items may have fewer options and capabilities at first, since many devices are so new and somewhat experimental. If you opt to purchase smart devices when they’re still brand new, you run the risk of purchasing a product that might end up being less useful than you expected.

What can you get?

Many more products are becoming part of the IoT as the months pass. Here are some types of products you can find, along with one or two products available now (or soon!) in each category:

Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list, but you can see that there’s a wide range of products that can connect to the internet and expand the Internet of Things. Now that you know what the IoT is, it might be easier to keep an eye on the next new smart device.

What to Watch While You Wait for ‘Thrones’

What to Watch While You Wait for ‘Thrones’

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I don’t know about you, but now that Game of Thrones’ seventh season has ended, I feel lost. ‘Thrones’ gave me something to get excited for every Sunday, and now, some reports are suggesting that it may not return until sometime in 2019. If that’s the case, that’s at least 16 months without a ‘Thrones’ fix. The good news is that there are some other killer shows we can all binge—yes, there are other amazing shows—and it’s likely all these offerings will have new seasons to watch each week while we wait. Below are some of our best options to keep us happy during the break.

Vikings

Where to watch: History Channel, Amazon Prime
What it’s about: This show tells the stories of some of the most celebrated Vikings in history. Season one primarily features Ragnar Lothbrok, a farmer who is skilled in battle and who wishes to travel west despite the fears that there is no west to find. Vikings is not, however, a one-man show. The story of Vikings is filled with intriguing characters, like Ragnar’s equally skilled wife, Lagertha, and Ragnar’s brother, Rollo. ‘Thrones’ fans will enjoy the stellar battle scenes, intense power struggles, and beautiful cinematography.
Find out more: history.com

House of Cards

Where to watch: Netflix
What it’s about: House of Cards centers on Frank and Claire Underwood, two power-hungry individuals who have devoted their lives to rising in the political ranks. Season one focuses on Frank’s attempts to move up from his position as the House Majority Whip. ‘Thrones’ fans will enjoy the show’s political intrigue, flawed characters, and shocking (and dark) twists.
Find out more: netflix.com

Mr. Robot

Where to watch: USA, Amazon Prime
What it’s about: Elliot, a drug addicted genius, is pulled into a hacktivist group called ‘fsociety’ after meeting a man referred to as Mr. Robot. Fsociety hopes to destroy the status quo and take down corporate bankers through an elaborate hacking scheme. Viewers follow along with Elliot’s internal monologue and eventually find themselves wondering, like Elliot, who they can trust. ‘Thrones’ fans will enjoy the suspenseful plot, strong character development, and clever dialogue.
Find out more: usanetwork.com

Westworld

Where to watch: HBO, Amazon (available for purchase)
What it’s about: This show, based on Michael Crichton’s film of the same name, tells the sci-fi story of a robot-run amusement park in a place called Westworld. In Westworld, visitors can do as they please. However, when things start to go wrong, it looks like some guests may have a better time than others. ‘Thrones’ fans will enjoy the well-crafted plot, gorgeous visuals, and well-cast characters.
Find out more: hbo.com

American Gods

Where to watch: Starz, Amazon (available for purchase)
What it’s about: American Gods, based on Neil Gaiman’s book, follows Shadow Moon as he is released from prison and meets the strange Mr. Wednesday. From this point on, Shadow is brought into a battle he could never have imagined, finding himself in the middle of a fight between the Old Gods and the New. ‘Thrones’ fans will enjoy the dark visuals, growing conflict, and intriguing group of characters.
Find out more: starz.com

The Magicians

Where to watch: SyFy, Netflix
What it’s about: The Magicians, based on the novel by Lev Grossman, follows Quentin Coldwater as he discovers a world of magic and gets a chance to go to Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy. Though Quentin is accepted to the university, his friend Julia is not, setting both Quentin and Julia on dangerous paths as they learn more about the magical world. ‘Thrones’ fans will enjoy the striking special effects, exciting sense of danger, and intriguing storylines.
Find out more: syfy.com

The Man in the High Castle

Where to watch: Amazon Prime
What it’s about: This show is set in an alternative history where World War II ended very differently from what we know. The United States has now become the separate areas of the Greater Nazi Reich and the Japanese Pacific States. However, propaganda materials are discovered that suggest there was another timeline where the War did not end with the Allied Forces being defeated. The story’s main character, Juliana, quickly finds herself working to protect this information while still trying to keep out of serious danger. ‘Thrones’ fans will enjoy the dark visuals, flawed and fleshed-out characters, and heart-racing suspense.
Find out more: amazon.com

Outlander

Where to watch: Starz, Amazon (available for purchase)
What it’s about: Outlander centers on Claire Randall, who, in 1945, is somehow sent back in time to 18th century Scotland. She meets Jamie Fraser, a Highland warrior, and becomes involved with the people of the time and the war they’re fighting. ‘Thrones’ fans will enjoy the intriguing storylines, eye-catching visuals, and fantasy romance.
Find out more: starz.com

Orphan Black

Where to watch: BBC America, Amazon Prime
What it’s about: This show centers on Sarah Manning, a woman who discovers she is one of many clones. She adopts the role of one of her clones after witnessing her death. The discovery of her fellow clones puts Sarah in danger, though, as information about where they came from begins to come to light. ‘Thrones’ fans will enjoy the twisting plot, dark subject matter, and engaging characters.
Find out more: bbcamerica.com

Subscription Streaming Services: Plenty to Choose From

Subscription Streaming Services: Plenty to Choose From

For a long while, subscription streaming was simple. You might have heard someone talking about Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime—and you still will, since these three services are still at the top of their game. Now, though, there are far more offerings to think about adding to your list of subscriptions. Recently, Disney announced they would be removing their content from Netflix and creating their own streaming service in 2019. And YouTube is entering the arena with their own service. With so many services to keep track of, it can be difficult to decide which one (or ones) will be best for you. Here’s a list of just some of your subscription streaming options. (Since we all know and love Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, I’ll skip them for this list.)

  • Sling TV

    What it offers: Live TV packages with channels like ESPN, AMC, and History. Subscribers can choose from monthly packages with 25+ channels, 40 channels, or all channels. Sling also offers add-ons, like sports or news packages.
    What it costs: $20-$40 for basic packages; prices vary for add-ons
    Where to go: http://www.sling.com

  • DirecTV Now

    What it offers: Monthly packages with live streaming and on demand content from over 60 channels, like Disney, CNN, and TNT. DirecTV Now also gives subscribers the option to add premium channels HBO, Cinemax, and Starz on top of their subscription package.
    What it costs: $35-$70 for basic packages; $5-$8 each for premium add-ons
    Where to go: https://www.directvnow.com/

  • HBO Now

    What it offers: Access to HBO content without a cable TV subscription. Subscribers can use their monthly subscription to watch commercial-free content like Game of Thrones, Westworld, and a selection of movies.
    What it costs: $14.99
    Where to go: https://order.hbonow.com/

  • CBS All Access

    What it offers: Monthly or yearly subscriptions with live streaming and access to content on demand; CBS All Access offers plans with limited or no commercials. Subscribers can watch shows from CBS, and they can also watch programs exclusive to CBS All Access, like the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery.
    What it costs: $5.99-$9.99 monthly; $59.99-$99.99 yearly
    Where to go: http://www.cbs.com/all-access

  • Acorn TV

    What it offers: A monthly subscription with commercial-free streaming of shows “from Britain and beyond,” their website states. Their offerings include programs viewers may already know and love, as well as shows exclusive to Acorn TV.
    What it costs: $4.99
    Where to go: https://signup.acorn.tv/

  • YouTube TV

    What it offers: Access to TV channels with a monthly subscription. YouTube TV allows subscribers to have 6 accounts per household, letting families or roommates share. It also has DVR that uploads your recordings to the cloud and offers unlimited storage space. Right now, YouTube TV is only available in some specific markets, but it will be rolling out to everyone soon.
    What it costs: $35 for a basic subscription; $11-$15 each for add-ons
    Where to go: https://tv.youtube.com/

Now Accepting Check or Money Order

Now Accepting Check or Money Order

Pay how you want with EIN

Sometimes the best ways are the old ways. Now you can order new High-Speed Internet Service from Easy Internet Now and pay by Check or Money Order! It’s  one more part of how we’re working every day to make getting Internet service as easy and convenient as possible. To make a payment by Check or Money Order on a new order just select the option from the list at the bottom of your order:

If you choose to pay by Check or Money Order you will need to mail in your payment before we can schedule your Installation. EIN is a prepaid service provider, and like our other payment methods, we need to have your first payment in place before installing your new High-Speed Internet Service. Shortly after you place your order you will get an email explaining that you need to mail in your payment to our processing center before Installation can proceed.

Easy Internet Now Payment Processing Center

PO Box 1563

West Plains, MO 65775

This makes three easy to use payment methods for getting service with EIN! If you’re planning to use a check we highly suggest using our eCheck system to get your Installation scheduled and in-progress as quickly as possible.

Making Monthly Payments by Check

Not only can you make your initial payment by Check or Money Order, you can also pay your monthly subscription the same way! Just make sure your payment is mailed to our processing center with plenty of time to arrive before your due date. Payments mailed to the processing center may not be applied the day they are received – but they will always be backdated to the date they arrived, so no worries about getting an errant late fee.

If you have any questions about our payment methods, or anything else related to EIN, just give a shout by texting 405.445.3685 or by emailing hello@easyinternetnow.com. We’re always glad to hear from you!

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7 Places to Travel as a Virtual Tourist

7 Places to Travel as a Virtual Tourist

Virtual reality opens up many new worlds. A virtual reality (VR) headset can make gaming more exciting, immerse its wearer in 360° videos, open the door to virtual social interaction, and, notably, whisk would-be tourists away to places they may have never seen. After donning a headset, users can download an app, like Google 360, and search for destinations they would like to visit. Even without a headset, virtual travelers can click through stunning locales on their computers and other devices. Here are the 7 destinations on Google Street View that VR tourists should travel to first:

1. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Thanks to Google Arts & Culture, tourists from across the world can go inside the Rijksmuseum and look at thousands of beautiful pieces, including works by Rembrandt.
Click here to visit on Google Street View

2. Nishibama, Aka Island, Okinawa, Japan
Straying from the streets, virtual tourists can take a dive and get an underwater view of Nishibama’s sea life. Headset wearers can move through the water and get a close-up of the sea life and underwater landscape.
Click here to visit on Google Street View

3. Victoria Park, Hong Kong
Travelers can stroll through Victoria Park and take in the brightly-lit nightlife. Looking up can give viewers a glimpse of the stunning skyline.
Click here to visit on Google Street View

4. Milford Track, New Zealand
Tourists can transport themselves to the beautiful Milford Track and take in the view of a tall, gorgeous waterfall. Turning away from the main view, virtual visitors can walk down the boardwalk and spot smaller waterfalls, moss-covered trees, and the dense woods.
Click here to visit on Google Street View

5. The Colorado River, USA
VR tourists can stay completely dry while floating down the Colorado River inside the Grand Canyon. Looking in front and behind, virtual boaters can see the sparkling river. To the left and the right, they can examine the canyon’s colorful layers of rock. For a less serene view, look for the 36 Mile Rapid.
Click here to visit on Google Street View

6. Istanbul Toy Museum, Turkey
Travelers can transport themselves to Turkey and visit the Istanbul Toy Museum. Street View lets visitors walk from room to room, taking in the glass cases full of unique items, some of which are antiques.
Click here to visit on Google Street View

7. Lago di Coca, Bergamasque Alps, Italy
Those who don’t want to brave the mountains can take a virtual trip of the Bergamasque Alps. Visiting Lago di Coca lets tourists get a glimpse of a shimmering lake between the mountains. In the distance, it’s easy to see numerous snow-covered mountains.
Click here to visit on Google Street View

Internet 101: What is a Digital Wallet?

Internet 101: What is a Digital Wallet?

When it comes to paying at the store, customers have a lot more options these days. Debit and credit cards made it possible to stop carrying cash, and now digital wallets may make it possible to stop carrying your credit cards, too. A digital wallet is an electronic service that lets its customers make payments; in many cases, these digital wallets are apps on our phones. These apps let you save your credit card information and simply use your phone to pay for purchases online and at certain stores. Though this article will focus on in-store use, remember that the digital wallets mentioned below can also be used online.

How It Works

The apps in this article work in stores by using NFC, MST, or QR codes. The type of technology a digital wallet app uses determines which stores your app will work at. Here’s a quick rundown of what your digital wallet might use and how it works:

  • NFC, or Near Field Communication, sends information between two devices that are very close to one another; stores need to have a certain kind of terminal to be able to work with NFC.
  • MST, or Magnetic Secure Transmission, makes a card reader think a card has been swiped; because of this, MST works at more stores.
  • QR codes, or Quick Response Codes, are a kind of barcode that can be scanned to retrieve information.

It’s important to research your options before choosing a digital wallet and adding your financial information to the app. There may be some apps that are unverified or potentially dangerous, so be sure to look up an app before downloading it. Also, most apps include security protocols, so always take advantage of the security system built into an app; for example, some apps ask you to use a PIN or fingerprint before you can make a purchase.

The following list describes some of the most popular and well-known digital wallet apps, as well as some of the stores where you can use each app:

Android Pay

How it works: Android Pay works on Android phones that have NFC capabilities. After downloading the Android Pay app, you can add credit cards, debit cards, gift cards, and loyalty programs, and you can even link your PayPal account. To add a credit card, you can either enter the card’s information manually or simply take a picture within the app. Once you’ve loaded your cards and programs, you can use the app in-store by turning on your phone’s NFC and holding your phone next to the checkout terminal.
Where it works: Android Pay works in stores that have terminals displaying the Android Pay or NFC logos (which you can see on Google’s page by clicking here). You can also open the app, click on the menu, and find out which specific stores accept it at that time. As I write this article, Android Pay is accepted at places like Best Buy, Bloomingdales, GameStop, Macy’s, McDonald’s, PetCo, Walt Disney World, Whole Foods, and many more. For more information, click here to visit the Android Pay website.

Apple Pay

How it works: Apple Pay works on iPhones and Apple Watches. You can add credit cards, store cards, and rewards cards to the app. To add a card on your Apple device, you simply tap to add a new card and then follow the steps to fill out your card information. When you’re paying in NFC-capable stores, you just need to hold your device close to the store’s terminal.
Where it works: Apple Pay works in stores that have terminals displaying the Apple Pay or NFC logos (which you can see on Apple’s page by clicking here). You can also take a look at Apple’s website to see which specific stores accept it at the time. Right now, Apple’s website shows that Apple Pay works at places like the Apple Store, Big Lots, Bloomingdale’s, Chick-fil-A, the Disney Store, GameStop, McDonald’s, QuikTrip, Starbucks, Walt Disney World, and more. For more information, click here to visit the Apple Pay website.

Chase Pay

How it works: Chase Pay is available in the App Store and on Google Play. You can sign into the app with your Chase account and use the app to pay in certain stores, as well as place orders in advance at some restaurants. Chase Pay uses QR codes instead of NFC, meaning stores scan a code on your phone.
Where it works: Chase Pay launched fairly recently, near the end of 2016, so there are few options for paying in-store at the moment. However, Chase Pay can still be used online, and Chase should be adding more in-store options. Right now, you can use Chase Pay at Starbucks and Best Buy. For more information, click here to visit the Chase Pay website.

PayPal App

How it works: The PayPal App is available in the App Store, on Google Play, and in the Windows Phone Store. You can use your PayPal account to sign in on the app and make payments. The PayPal App uses QR codes, so retailers scan the code on your phone in order to make a purchase. You can also place orders in advance at some restaurants, meaning you can just go pick up your food that has already been paid for.
Where it works: To find out where you’ll be able to use the app in-store, you can open the PayPal App, press the “In Store” button, and, using your phone’s GPS, scroll through a list of nearby retailers. For instance, when I tested the app, it told me I could use it at Dollar General and Macy’s. Before deciding on whether to use this app, try opening it in the areas you normally frequent and see which retailers pop up. For more information, click here to visit the PayPal App website.

Samsung Pay

How it works: Samsung Pay is available on specific Samsung devices, including many Samsung Galaxy devices. With Samsung Pay, you can add your credit cards, gift cards, and many loyalty and rewards cards to your digital wallet. Samsung Pay also shows nearby deals, and it has a rewards program. The rewards program allows you to accrue points as you make purchases with the app and spend those points on rewards like gift cards and Samsung products. To pay in-store, you verify your identity in the app and place your phone on the terminal.
Where it works: Samsung Pay uses both NFC and MST, so it’s accepted in a great deal of stores. Like other apps, you can look for the NFC logo on the terminal. Or, since the app also uses MST, you can pay at many stores by placing your phone on the terminal’s card reader, essentially simulating a card swipe. If you’re at a store with a card reader, Samsung Pay will likely work. For more information, click here to visit the Samsung Pay website.

Walmart Pay

How it works: Walmart Pay works through the Walmart App and is available in the App Store and on Google Play. After creating a Walmart.com account and signing in through the Walmart App, you can add the card of your choice to be used for payment, whether it be a major credit card or a Walmart gift card. Using Walmart Pay in stores is slightly different from the other digital wallets mentioned in this article. Walmart Pay uses QR codes, but instead of showing a QR code to the cashier, you use the app to scan the QR code that appears on the card terminal’s screen. The app then uses the card you have on file to make the payment and save a digital receipt. Walmart Pay does work in all the checkout lanes, including self-checkout.
Where it works: Only at Walmart. Walmart introduced Walmart Pay specifically to work in their stores and made most other digital wallets unable to be used there. If you do a lot of your shopping at Walmart, this app could save you some time and hassle. For more information, click here to visit the Walmart Pay website.

Spotify & Hulu Bundle Launches for Students

Spotify & Hulu Bundle Launches for Students

College students, rejoice! Spotify and Hulu have joined together to offer the Spotify Student Hulu Bundle. Students who are attending an eligible college or university can take advantage of a new bundle that offers Spotify and Hulu for $4.99 a month. If you already paid for Spotify Student, this new bundle essentially gives you Hulu as an added bonus. The Spotify & Hulu bundle is available for new users and old, as long as they’re attending an accredited institution. This is fantastic news for college students, especially those who already pay for one of the services.

New and returning users can get the bundle by going to the Spotify Student page and get started with the process. To get a student plan, Spotify makes sure that you’re a student currently enrolled in college. In addition to the typical information you might enter for a new account, they ask for information like which college you’re attending. They use a third party called SheerID to verify that you really are a student. Whether you’re a new Spotify user or someone just switched to Student from a regular Premium account, Spotify will switch you over to a Student account once you’ve been approved.

During the account activation process, you’ll be asked to connect with Hulu. If you don’t have Hulu yet, don’t worry—you’ll be given a chance to start your account. If you already have Hulu and you’re using the same email on both Spotify and Hulu, the Hulu registration screen should show that your email address is already linked to an account. Just click to log in, enter your password, and sign in to your Hulu account.

If you’re already a Spotify Student user, and you just want to add Hulu to your account, all you need to do is log in to Spotify, visit the Spotify Student page, click “Get Started,” and follow the on-screen prompts. Spotify will tell you that you already have Spotify Student and ask if you want to add Hulu (why bother asking, honestly—who wouldn’t want free Hulu?). Just click through to either create a new Hulu account or link your existing one.

Keep in mind, of course, that this service is only available as long as you’re a student. Spotify sends reminders each year to re-activate Spotify Student by proving your enrollment status again. So you may not be able to keep this $4.99 bundle forever, but it’s definitely a much-needed perk while you’re battling your way toward graduation.